Ladislas Kijno

1921 — 2012

The French artist of Polish descent was born in Warsaw. When he was four years old his family moved to France and settled in Pas-de-Calais. Kijno studied philosophy at Lille university where one of his mentors was philosopher and writer Jean Grenier who had influenced the young Albert Camus. In the early 1940s while still a student Kijno began to create his first artworks. Later he attended sculpture workshops of Germaine Richier known for his hybrids of humans and animals. Even after his relocation to Paris Kijno remained close friends with Richier. 

As a student Kijno gravitated towards Taosism and libertarian ethics which made him fascinated with poetry. During his lifetime he was deeply charmed and inspired by poets, and his artworks contain numerous references to Louis Aragon and Francis Ponge. In his own turn, Kijno became the subject of dedication in a poetic essay «Fenêtre d’aveugle» («Blind window»), a piece about his artwork and techniques written by the Lebanese poet Salah Stetié. 

In 1950 Kijno founded the Cadran group (alongside Paul Gay)and in 1954 he held his first individual exhibition. That same year, Ladislas decided to devote himself completely to the painting. However, next year brought him to serious doubts in his work – Kijno burned all of his paintings (estimated around 250 works) and relocated to Antibes, France where, in 1957, Dor de la Souchère, a friend of Nicolas de Staël and Pablo Picasso, took the initiative to organize the first large Kijno exhibition at the Musée d’Antibes.

In 1958 Kijno moved back to Paris and became a member of the committee of the Salon de Mai, a collective of French artists originating from a café on the Rue Dauphine in 1943, during the German occupation. He participated regularly in major Parisian salons like New Realities, Comparisons, Department of Youth, and Today Sacred Art. Around this time, Kijno began his perennial written correspondence with the younger brother of the sculptress Camille Claudel, the French poet, dramatist, and diplomat Paul Claudel.

In Paris Kijno developed the froissage technique, a method of creasing paper. He experimented with the multiplied spray paints and the in the field of vaporization and dyes, creating a synthesis between traditional technique of painting and industrial discoveries. By pioneering the use of aerosols he became known as one of the spiritual fathers of the French street art.

Although Kijno inclined towards abstraction (mostly red or black forms and shapes that penetrate each other), he never stopped exploring the gap between the figurative and abstract art, looking for all means to fill it or bridge it somehow. This mission led to the creation of Kijno’s own artistic universe ornamented with a modern mythology. At this time the artist found inspiration in his numerous journeys: China, Marquesas Islands, Tuamotu, and Easter Island. In 1980 at the Venice Biennale he exhibited 30 monumental crumpled canvases, named Theater of Neruda.